Quirky hotels in Nice France for a stay you will never forget…
Le Negresco Its elegant pink dome is the most emblematic of hotels in Nice, but inside, past the top-hat-and-tights-wearing doormen, the Negresco is an amusing mix of elegance and quirky kitsch, all lovingly chosen by its reclusive owner, Jeanne Augier, who lived alone in the top of the tower with her two little dogs, until her death at the ripe old age of 95 a few years ago. Her will specified that the hotel is to never fall into corporate hands, so it is destined to remain its independent and gloriously quirky self into perpetuity.
It’s a 5-star hotel of contradictions: Priceless antiques are side-by-side with sometimes atrocious examples of modern art. The best restaurant in town (the Michelin starred Chantecler) is next to a pink carousel-themed café, with painted horses that disconcertingly bob up and down while you eat. Just off the lobby, the magnificent open round ballroom features a glass ceiling designed by Gustave Eiffel and an enormous Baccarat crystal chandelier made for a Russian Tsar, all complemented by …a giant pop-art sculpture of a large woman with a tiny head, spinning on a pedestal. Not to mention the rooms, each a cacophony of priceless yet conflicting antiques and fabrics, and many rooms are fitted with ’50’s style glitter sinks and toilets.
Personal side note: The Negresco is where I spent the first night of my honeymoon, which was also my first night in France, and I was, frankly, completely stunned.
In short, Le Negresco is over-the-top and never boring. I encourage you to pop in for a look and a wander, but the price of admission is buying an overpriced drink in their excellent Hemingway-esque bar, as they don’t encourage lookie-lous. Don’t miss the gift shop.
The Westminster Hotel and Spa, Nice’s other pink seaside hotel is the oldest hotel on the Promenade; it opened in 1880 and is still owned by the great grandchildren of the original builder. It took its name with permission from the British Royal Family, who wintered on the Cote d’Azur at the time. This 4-star hotel is notable for its stunning sea view but also for its magnificent Hall of Florentine Fresques, painted in 1904 and just recently restored. For those whom the Negresco is just a liiittle too quirky, its stately neighbor Westminster is a good alternative, and less expensive to boot.
The Windsor Art Hotel The choice of lobby art is the first clue that this 4-star establishment is not like the others, but check-in to one of their Artist Rooms and you will have no doubt. Since 1989 the owners have given one artist a year carte blanche to transform one room into an ouvre d’art. Of their 57 rooms, half are extravagant kitschy fresques and the other half are unique artistic expressions, as are the halls, stairs and even elevators. Choose to sleep in a golden cube, in a cartoon adventure, in a travel sketch book, or a fantasy garden. The most popular room? Ben’s #65, with every surface covered with his pithy scrawls, most starting with “I dreamed that…” In addition, the hotel has one of the best secret gardens in Nice.
The Hyatt Regency Palais de la Mediterranee This seaside 5-star hotel may be modern, but the façade is the 1929 original, and comes with an unsolved murder mystery attached: the young hotel heiress Agnès Le Roux disappeared 30 years ago under very murky circumstances, and the police still dig up gardens in Nice from time to time, whenever they get a new tip.
The hotel has the most elegant pool terrace on the Riviera, set back just enough to make the cars on the Prom disappear, leaving only the blue sea framed with giant marble columns. The rooms are great, but unfortunately have no such sense-of-place: they could be in a ‘W’ Hotel anywhere in the world.
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